Hundreds of snow leopards, an endangered species, are being killed illegally every year in the remote mountains of Asia, extending from China to Tajikistan, says a new report.
Only about 4000 to 6500 of these elusive animals are estimated to be surviving in the wild at present. International trade in snow leopards has been banned since 1975.
The report was published by Traffic, a leading non-governmental organization working globally on trade in wild animals and plants in the context of both biodiversity conservation and sustainable development.
According to the report, as many as 450 snow leopards were killed annually since 2008 in the 12 Asian nations where they are extant, notwithstanding the bans. They exist around the Himalayan and Tibetan plateaus of China, Bhutan, Nepal, India, Pakistan as well as Mongolia, Tajikistan and Russia.
About half of them were shot by local people to avenge their livestock losses. Often, their carcasses are sold for high prices. The claws and teeth of this animal is often advertised as having medicinal properties. the skin of the snow leopards also have a high demand. E-commerce and online sales have facilitated the rise in illegal trade of the snow leopard.
More than 90% of the reported poaching occurred in five countries which include China, Mongolia, Pakistan, India and Tajikistan. Since the habitat of the snow leopard falls along the international borders, the report calls for greater cross-border cooperation, especially in the area of law enforcement to ensure the protection of this endangered species.
The report also highlights the need for providing more and more incentives to the local people so as to motivate them to protect the animals. More efforts need to be put in to investigate the poaching cases.
In 2013, government officials of the 12 countries encompassing the range of the snow leopard came together to form the Global Snow Leopard Forum and signed the Bishkek Declaration to cooperate in the efforts of conservation of snow leopards and the high-altitude ecosystems where this animal thrives.
Although 2015 was declared the International Year of the Snow Leopard to raise awareness among people about the animal, the recent report by Traffic proves how human-animal conflict is responsible for the dwindling numbers of the same.